Julio Tresierra: Transforming Lives With Investments In Watershed Services
Julio Tresierra has always been obsessed with change. That’s what lured him from his native Peru five decades ago, and it’s what keeps him going at 71. Since then, he’s been traveling the world – both geographically and philosophically – in search of real-world solutions to our deepest societal problems. He found the answers living with the poorest of the poor and working on over 60 social development projects with various civil society organizations and government agencies across Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Eight years ago, Tresierra went to work for the environmental NGO World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in cooperation with CARE, a humanitarian organization specializing in assisting marginalized populations. The result is a global network of pilot projects called Equitable Payments for Watershed Services.
Tresierra reasoned that if farmers and ranchers improved the areas upstream of a watershed by preventing sedimentation and erosion, then residents, businesses and landowners downstream, who rely on healthy watersheds to conduct business, would be willing to pay for the service. It would help lift farmers out of poverty, he thought, and also generate a sustainable cycle: farmers in upland areas, which are usually those who live in extreme poverty and grow food for consumption, would benefit from better crops to restore water quality. This would also enable them to sell their crops to local markets or even trade with foreign buyers. Ultimately, an investments in watershed services (IWS) scheme would allow for cooperation between the water sector and other stakeholders operating in a basin, instead of conflict and competition.
– Keep reading at Ecosystem Marketplace.
Restoration vs. Renewable Energy: Amateurism Doesn’t Pay
Critics of renewable energy investments usually focus on the relatively high cost of the power they generate. New project proposals require sophisticated financial models that compare permitting, manufacturing, and operating costs against projected power generation rates and pricing over time. On the other hand, environmental restoration proposals are rarely assessed using return on investment calculations. In fact, project developers may need only a before-and-after illustration and a willing land owner to receive funding for a new project. Restoration investments may face criticisms, but not due to their estimated output being more expensive than alternatives. Output is rarely measured using metrics that the public can understand and thus frequently not valued at all.
So why is it, asks Damon Hess of Sitka Technology Group, that the requirements for funding renewable energy are so much more onerous than those for environmental restoration? Public investments in renewable energy projects are meant to spur larger private investments and thus are held to a higher standard, he writes. Public investments in environmental restoration are meant to make us feel good about our commitment to “mother nature” and thus are given treated with kid gloves.
– Read Hess’s opinion piece here.
Understanding Social Impacts of Watershed Investments
A new pair of papers from Forest Trends offers initial thoughts on guidance for social impact assessment (SIA) for investments in watershed services (IWS) projects. IWS, like any intervention, likely will result in some negative social or equity impacts, as well as hopefully some positive ones.
The main paper provides recommendations for carrying out SIA in the watershed investment context. The paper draws on an extensive literature on the theory and practice of SIA, on the authors’ experiences of applying SIA in other natural resource contexts, and on discussions from a workshop with IWS program practitioners. It sets out the case for SIA as an issue of self-interest for IWS interventions. “Good practice” SIA can strengthen the design of IWS programs in terms of social sustainability, reduce risk levels, increase capacity for adaptive management, and (if done in a participative way) increase stakeholder participation and ownership of project objectives. An accompanying literature review of gender and other social impacts of IWS projects looks at what the existing literature has to say about wider social impacts of IWS, and examines gender issues specifically in greater detail.
– Read the paper.
– Read the literature review.
A Changing Climate: Implications for Business
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s report Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis is the most detailed assessment of climate science ever. Over 2,000 pages of scientific consensus make clear that climate change is real, that it is happening now and that human influence on the changing climate is more certain than ever.
To help the business community better understand the implications of climate change for their business model, the European Climate Foundation, which promotes energy and climate policy that reduces carbon emissions in Europe, have produced a digestible summary of the IPCC report. Published by the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School and the Programme for Sustainability Leadership and supported by the ECF, Climate Change: Actions, Trends and Implications for Business distills key findings into an easily readable, but non-the-less scientifically accurate document. The report summarizes scientific basis of climate change projections and anticipated impacts and includes infographics charting the “pathway to two degrees,” i.e. the targeted maximum increase in global temperatures.
– Learn more here.
A Post-2015 Goal on Water?
There’s a growing drumroll to include a water goal in the post-2015 development agenda’s sustainable development goals; the Millennium Development Goals noticeably lacked one. At a high-level meeting in Budapest earlier this month, a ‘Budapest Statement‘ was developed calling for a dedicated water goal. Targets would include universal access to safe drinking water and sanitation, a shift to integrated basin-level management, reducing pollution and scaling up collection, treatment, and re-use, and increased resilience against the water-related impacts of global changes. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon says he supports a water goal as well: “Water holds the key to sustainable development.”
– Read more from IISD News.
Judge Forces EPA’s Hand on Water Pollution Standards in the Mississippi
A decision handed down by a federal judge last month gives the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) six months to set numeric (i.e. quantitative) nutrient standards in the Mississippi River basin, or explain why standards aren’t needed. The EPA has since 2008 taken the position that numeric standards should be developed by states, as it did in the case of Florida. But the agency declined to comment on whether it believed standards were needed at all. Environmentalists challenged that in court. Now the EPA has to either find that water quality issues in the 31-state basin don’t merit pollution standards (even though the agency has long said these problems are severe), or undertake a formal rulemaking. That determination need not be limited to the scientific basis for standards, but can consider other factors such as social impacts – an outcome welcomed by farm groups who had taken the EPA side against environmentalists.
– E&E News has the story.
The Fate of All Those Valuation Studies
Ecosystem services valuation methodologies are, after two decades of sustained academic attention and debate, finally (reasonably) well-accepted in the environmental economics community. But are they translating into policy change? A recent Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI) project examined hundreds of journal articles on ecosystem services valuation (ESV) in search of evidence of influence on decision making. What they found: in just 2% of cases, ESV clearly influenced a decision.
Even for the “same half-dozen” examples repeatedly cited, it’s not clear that ESV drove decision-making. “The case that came up most often was New York City paying to protect the Catskills watershed,” explains Raphaí«l Billé, the project’s coordinator. “As the story goes, this was done after an economic valuation showed that it would be cheaper than letting the watershed degrade and building a sophisticated water treatment plant. There is evidence, however, that the decision was made first, and that an economic valuation was commissioned later to strengthen its legitimacy.”
– Read an interview with Billé in the latest Marine Ecosytems and Management newsletter (page seven).
– Read a paper on IDDRI’s findings.
World’s Largest Brewer Looks Beyond the Fence
In its efforts to manage water and energy consumption, Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s biggest brewer, has found it needs to think beyond its own walls, at both its supply chain and the watersheds in which it operates. “Access to safe water is critical for our business and the communities where we live and work, so we need to have sustainable water resources in the areas where we operate,” says Daniel Navaresse, global director of energy and fluids for the company. He says the company plans to support watershed protection efforts around its facilities in seven countries, implement best management practices in key barley-growing areas, and improve efficiencies in beermaking – all by 2017.
– Read more at E&E News.
New Report Charts the Path to Natural Infrastructure Investments
A new report from the World Resources Institute, Earth Economics and Manomet Center for Conservation offers a roadmap to investing in natural infrastructure as a complement or supplement to engineered solutions. Natural Infrastructure: Investing in Forested Landscapes for Source Water Protection in the United States sets out the economic and scientific basis for source water protection for water managers. The focus is on concrete lessons, with case examples of successful programs, a review of available tools and approaches, and additional resources for developing a source-water protection strategy in your own watershed. “Natural infrastructure has long been recognized by state drinking water administrators as a powerful and sustainable approach for protecting sources of drinking water and thereby, public health,” said Jim Taft, Executive Director of the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators in a press release. “This guide will be of considerable value to states by providing comprehensive information about innovative tools that will help bring the use of natural infrastructure approaches to scale.”
– Read a press release.
– Access the report.
Nutrient Trading Eyed in Georgia
Calhoun Utilities may be the site of Georgia’s first nutrient trading program. Plant upgrades to control phosphorus pollution in Weiss Lake would cost several million dollars upfront and another $800,000 annually, according to Jerry Crawford, the utilities’ director of water and wastewater. “With nutrient trading we find a way to remove the phosphorous a cheaper way,” Crawford said. “We would spend $800,000 a year at the waste water plant, or we can spend $200,000 dealing with the poultry farmers.” Participating poultry farmers could sell their nutrient-rich chicken litter to other agricultural producers for fertilizer, rather than letting it run off into the lake – a double win, says Crawford. The utility is currently engaging farmers in the area for pilots.
– Read more at the Calhoun Times.
Florida Nitrogen Trade Awakens the Additionality Monster
A proposed purchase by the city of Jacksonsville, FL from a utility is being criticized for a lack of additionality – in other words, the trade lets Jacksonville get credit for nutrient reductions that would have happened anyway. “You’re using money to buy a credit for [pollution] reductions that have already been made. It’s not an addition,” said St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman. “We’re not going to move the needle if we use that [money] to buy water-quality trading credits.” But the utility says under the terms of the sale, its permitted allowance for nitrogen loading will be reduced by 67,000 lbs (i.e. the amount of the trade), meaning that the pollution reductions are real. Water quality trading in Florida was just expanded statewide in June 2013, after a pilot in the Lower St. Johns River basin.
– Keep reading at the Florida Current.
Are Eco-Compensation Levels in Anhui-Zhejiang Deal High Enough?
In 2011, Anhui and Zhejiang provinces in China entered into an unusual bet. If water quality in Anhui reached basic standards, then Zhejiang province would pay Anhui 100 million yuan (US $16.4 million). But if pollution persisted, then Anhui would have to pony up. The central government contributed another 300 million yuan (US $49 million) in support of efforts. An article from Xinhua News offers an update: 2012 levels exceeded water quality standards, so Anhui won the bet (though downstream Zhejiang likely considered themselves winners as well).
Still, some say the pilot could be improved. Many industrial facilities and agricultural producers were required to cease operations along the Xin’an River. They were compensated for doing so, but many feel the compensation was not high enough. “After two years of treatment, water quality in Xin’an River has improved a lot. But residents in the upper reaches who sacrificed their own interests to protect the ecological environment have not got substantial returns,” said Gu Jiawen, a senior political advisor in Huangshan. “500 million yuan (US $82 million) is not much and even could not pay for the costs of the current environmental protection projects,” added Lu Haining, deputy head of the Huangshan Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau. “The amount of the compensation fund should be increased annually. Otherwise, it cannot be called compensation.”
– Read more at XinhuaNet.
ADB Issues High-Level Guidance on Managing the Nexus
The water-food-energy nexus has gotten a lot of press recently, but solutions to nexus issues aren’t always clear. A new report from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) scopes the nexus in Asia and the Pacific and offers guidance on increasing water, food, and energy security. Recommendations include reforming governance, improving data and information, protecting freshwater resources, increasing agricultural water use productivity, and investing in strategic storage (including aquifer recharge). A core suggestion in Thinking About Water Differently: Managing the Water-Food-Energy Nexus – that governments need to take a much longer-term view of water management – isn’t new, but bears repeating.
– Read a press release.
– Read the report (PDF).
Who Needs a Buyer for PES Projects?
Recent work by the World Agroforestry Centre offers a different way of thinking about program design for payments for ecosystem services (PES). Lead researcher Sara Namirembe looked at 50 “tree-based” PES projects in Africa. She found that efforts based on a high degree of commodification of an ecosystem service, and the identification of a buyer for that service, tended to work only in the carbon space. Instead, “co-investment” models that establish partnerships between stakeholders with different assets (such as land, labor, or finance), instead of buyer-seller relationship, seem to be more successful on the continent. Namirembe suggests this is because have lower requirements for “proving” benefits, since there is no buyer: all participants are on a level playing field.
– Read a blog post about the study here.
$4.5m for Marine Ecosystem Valuation in the Coral Triangle
A $4.5 million grant from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) will support efforts in the Philippines and Malaysia to value mangrove, sea grass and coral reef ecosystems services and inform policies and projects aimed at protecting these ecosystems. The “Coral Triangle” that lies between the two countries is the world’s biodiversity epicenter, say project funders. “This wealth of natural capital has the potential to be a major driver of inclusive green growth in the region, if we overcome some huge challenges. We especially need better resource governance regimes, measures to adequately value the environment for current and future generations when calculating economic benefits, and good scientific information to inform decision making and tradeoffs,” says Marea Hatziolos, Senior Environmental Specialist and the World Bank’s team leader for the project.
– The Manila Bulletin has coverage
A $50m Green Infrastructure Fund for Chicago
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced earlier this month that a $50 million fund has been dedicated to green infrastructure in the city, to be spent over the next five years. It’s welcome news, given that a previous stormwater settlement – the terms of which have been compared to Boston deciding to trade Babe Ruth to the Yankees – between the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and the EPA included just $325,000 for green infrastructure. Chicago’s aging infrastructure network currently struggles to cope with even small volumes of stormwater. The fund puts Chicago back in the big league with cities like Philadelphia, Milwaukee, New York and Seattle – all of which are making serious investments in green installations. Work is set to start this fall.
– Read more here.
Assessing Tools for Green Infrastructure Valuation
A new report from Natural England offers a useful review of valuation tools that estimate monetary benefits of green infrastructure. Nine different examples – including tools like NatCap’s INVEST and the Center for Neighborhood Technology’s ‘Guide to Valuing Green Infrastructure’ – are assessed against research standards for natural science and economics. Summaries of each tool are provided, as well as recommendations for appropriate use. The authors also report on the gaps they find: for example, the tools evaluated don’t seem to cover cultural and provisioning ecosystem services well, nor do they offer methods for valuing ponds, grass verges, or hedges.
– Access the report here.
CDP Global Water Forum 2013
CDP’s Global Water Forum will bring together institutional investors, corporations and policy makers to discuss one of the most pressing issues facing the world today: water security. This virtual roundtable will be broadcast live online using cutting edge TelePresence technology, where leaders in their field will apply expert insights on the topic of water security. 31 October 2013. Online.
– Learn more here.
Peoples, Land, and Water: The Natural Connection
Land and water has always been the immediate surroundings of peoples in all existences and continents. It has always been the base on which Man depends on for his existence. Land serves as home, a nutrient-filled and agricultural base, a thoroughfare, a religious base, et cetera. Water is all important beginning with the human body made up of water, water also serves as nourishment, used for cooking and the rivers, streams and oceans are home for very many habitats necessary for life. Wars have been fought to protect and preserve land and water space meaning that they are fundamental resource for human survival. Prevailing civilizations and epochs are chronicled with the effects these constituents have on human life. The conference therefore would like to explore these great connections from the humanities, science and social science perspectives. The hope of the conference is to discuss the interconnectedness or relatedness of these three theatres of life for existence/ living and chart a model or value system for the preservation of the resources and sustainable use by the human society. 3-6 November 2013. Contonou, Republic of Benin.
– Learn more here.
Irrigation and Water Forum: Water and the Green Economy
The Irrigation and Water Forum (the new name for ICID.UK) and UEA Water Security are hosting a one day conference on Water and the Green Economy. The term ‘green economy’ implies economic growth alongside a decreasing consumption of natural capital. (UNEP’s working definition considers a green economy to be one which results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities). However the conference will mainly be from an agricultural water point of view, and the interpretation of agriculture, water and the economy will be wide; including water and environmental conservation, productivity, the food chain and the role of the private sector. Guidance on attendance and pricing is given below. The final programme is subject to adjustments. The conference is followed by a complimentary networking event. The event will be available to watch on-line to registered participants using the ICE website – contact Tim Fuller for further details. [email protected]. London, UK. 8 November 2013.
– Learn more here.
Webinar – Green Infrastructure as a catalyst to economic growth
Over the summer Defra and Natural England published a report on the role Green Infrastructure plays as a catalyst to economic growth. This study pulled together evidence from the UK and around the world demonstrating how investment in GI encourages inward investment and attracts increased visitor spending at a local level and saves environmental costs and provides health benefits which in turn boost productivity. As part of the work of the Green Infrastructure Partnership, Natural England will be running a webinar to introduce and discuss the findings of this report. The webinar will be held on 18th of November running from 10:00 until 11:30. If you would like to join this webinar please email [email protected]. 18 November 2013. Online.
– Learn more here.
Sustainable Water Management Conference
Presenting solutions for balancing the benefits of conservation with the costs, managing infrastructure, developing robust supply models and watershed management plans, water reuse, resource management, green infrastructure and more. 30 March – 2 April 2014. Denver CO, USA.
– Learn more here.